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Your Tewksbury Today

Mass. House Passes 'Historic' Education Funding Bill

Nov 08, 2019 09:36PM

Tram Nguyen

(Editor's note: The following information was supplied by the office of State Rep. Tram Nguyen.)

On Wednesday, October 23, Rep. Tram Nguyen and her colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives unanimously passed historic legislation known as The Student Opportunity Act to invest $1.5 billion in the Commonwealth’s public education system in order to help address persistent disparities in student achievement.

Additionally, school districts across the Commonwealth will benefit from updates to the existing funding formula, along with increased state investment in other vital programs such as special education, transportation, and school buildings.

Andover is projected to see an increase of $924,000 in Chapter 70 Aid by Fiscal Year 2027; in Boxford an increase of $148,000; at Masconomet Regional an increase of $385,000; in North Andover an increase of $779,000; and in Tewksbury an increase of $714,000.

Rep. Nguyen gave her inaugural speech on The Student Opportunity Act, during which she affirmed the importance of public education that is free to all and works for all: 

“Education played a pivotal role in my success. It didn’t just teach me to think, it also gave me the confidence and character to be an advocate for others. Education allowed me to dream big and dare to take risks …. Now, we have the ability to provide that for every child. All of our students deserve the same opportunities I had. Education at its best is about empowering our future generations to believe in themselves, achieve their dreams, and take an active role in our society.”

“Today, even though Massachusetts is still first in the nation when it comes to education, there is a huge achievement gap that we need to close. The Student Opportunity Act will level the playing field across our state and allow us to do just that. By investing an additional $1.5 billion in public education to ensure that our schools have adequate funding to provide a high-quality education for every student, The Student Opportunity Act will make sure our schools have the resources to develop the future leaders, workers, and citizens of Massachusetts…. It is an investment in our collective future.”

Major updates to the formula will not only make funding more equitable, but also benefit all school districts. Health care costs for employees and retirees will be updated to reflect the fact that these costs have greatly increased. All districts will also see more money for special education costs. Enrollment of special education students has steadily increased for Andover, Boxford, North Andover, and Tewksbury. The new formula will increase special education enrollment and cost assumptions to more accurately reflect district enrollment and costs. 

Additionally, it will expand special education circuit breaker, which reimburses districts for extraordinary special education costs, and for the first time ever, will include transportation costs in addition to instructional costs, phased in over four years. By covering special education transportation, districts will be able to put more funding into properly teaching our students with special needs. It also lifts the annual cap on Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) spending for school building construction/renovation by $200 million (from $600 million to $800 million), enabling the MSBA to accept more projects across the state into its funding pipeline.

The bill will now go to Conference Committee to settle differences between the bills that passed in each chamber.

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